The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Depending on your source for DVDs, they may or may not be available that particular week, so you may want to clip the SOFA CINEMA column for future reference. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.
In the spirit of giving that abounds at Christmastime, I offer my favorite movies reviewed this year in each category. Because I chose more than one movie per category, this list is divided over two weeks with excerpts from SOFA CINEMA reviews. Look for FOREIGN, HIDDEN GEMS and CLASSIC picks next week.
If I rated films (which I don't), there probably would be an abundance of "stars" attached to the following titles. Merry Christmas and to all, a healthy, happy 2009!
"Across the Universe" incorporates more than 30 Beatles' songs in a cleverly relevant storyline. A lot was going on in the 1960s: Vietnam and subsequent protests, free love and drug experimentation. Through it all, Lennon and McCartney wrote some wonderful hit tunes that have become standards over the years.
What is particularly wonderful about "Across the Universe" is the relevance of the songs and the story as a source of understanding those turbulent times.
"Iron Man" has a grown-up script that youths can enjoy, a love interest (Gwyneth Paltrow) for Robert Downey Jr. who's not young enough to be his daughter, an almost unrecognizable Jeff Bridges as the evil nemesis and awesome, appropriate special effects. Add these all together and you get a rare treat from a big studio picture - a quality action/adventure film that's fun for the whole family.
"In the Valley of Elah." There is a war going on in Iraq and even though it's still mentioned on the evening news (although rarely the lead story) and even though yellow magnetic ribbons urging Support Our Troups still cling to a number of bumpers in parking lots, it takes a movie like "In the Valley of Elah" to bring the war home.
Based on actual events of a soldier's return from active duty and then his mysterious disappearance and murder, Tommy Lee Jones delivers an incredible performance as a father in search of the truth.
"Lars and the Real Girl" is a wonderful movie and has a script that is sensitive, charming, humorous, touching, thought-provoking and entertaining!
There are a few familiar names. Patricia Clarkson plays a doc who is so in tune with her patients that the highest-priced therapists on the coasts could take a few notes. Ryan Gosling is Lars. Or is Lars Ryan Gosling? It's tough to tell and it doesn't matter because even before Bianca (the aforementioned "girl friend") arrives, you want to fall in love with this guy - either Lars or Ryan.
"The Fall" takes place in an orthopedic hospital in Los Angeles in the 1920s. Stuntman Roy Walker (Lee Pace) is despondent from an accident that has left him paralyzed. Young Alexandria (Cantinca Untaru) also has fallen. She is on the mend from a severely broken arm that allows her to be mobile and her curiosity leads her into Roy's ward. What unfolds from that point on teeters between reality and fantasy in this magical tale.
The scenes between Roy and Alexandria were shot sequentially and the reactions of the young actress are of genuine curiosity as to "What happens next?" as Roy's fantasy with an ulterior motive unfolds. So many movies are "cookie cutter" copies with little imagination or creativity. "The Fall" is one of a kind.
"The Conscientious Objector" is not a slick piece of filmmaking, but it is the most real, the most honest, the most eye-opening example of courage in the face of the terror of combat. Desmond Doss' life's beliefs as a conscientious objector during months of boot camp and training were challenged daily, but he never wavered and insisted he didn't want out of the service. He wanted to serve with his fellow soldiers as a medic in combat.
"Been Rich All My Life" is so much more than five women, all in their 80s and 90s, reminiscing about their younger days. There is nothing quite as impressive or inspirational as watching people spending time doing what they love. When the Silver Belles take to the stage, it's virtually impossible not to break into a smile.
NEXT WEEK: FOREIGN FILMS, CLASSICS, and HIDDEN GEMS
Rebecca Redshaw worked in the film industry in Los Angeles for 25 years. A novelist and playwright, she has published in numerous magazines and newspapers in addition to teaching fiction. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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